Wednesday, November 30, 2011

P-2 tanker take-off

Several days ago I found the video that I am embedding showing the take-off of Minden T-48 (Lockheed P2V-7). I enjoyed the video and wanting to more I asked my friend G who was a P-2 tanker captain for many years if he could tell me what was going in the video. When you read the commentary and watch the video, perhaps you will want to open the video in a separate browser window so you can read along while you watch.

I should point out that captains may run their cockpits a little differently from what you are seeing in the video.

This is what G says:

In the P2V-7, all the throttles and such are on the overhead panel. From left to right they are: Fuel mixture levers; Recip throttles; Jet throttles.  The prop lever is a single lever behind the recip throttles and you can't see it in this video.  The two round things attached to the front of the recip throttles that look like bicycle hand grips are the reversing levers for the props.  They are used after landing to help slow the plane on the runway.

On the P2V-5, all this stuff is down on the center console.

Here's what I can see. There are verbal commands in there that we can't hear, so this is based on what I see:

:06 - CP takes jet throttles as P lines up on runway centerline.

:10 - P does last minute checks to be certain the props & mixtures are up tand the boost pumps are on high.  The boost pump switches in the -7 are on the overhead panel.

:12 - CP advances jet throttles to 100%, calls "Jets up".  P advances
recip throttles to T.O. power (determined by alt and temp)

During this time, the P is steering down the runway with the hydraulic steering tiller (nose wheel steering) on his left side panel.  CP is holding the yoke down to keep the nose wheel on the ground for steering. He is also calling out speeds as they accelerate.

:45 - P takes the yoke in both hands whenever he feels he has sufficient rudder authority to let go of the tiller.  CP takes over the recip throttles.  

:56 -  CP or P calls "Positive rate" (refers to rate of climb), P calls for gear up, CP throws the gear handle with his left hand.  P takes the recip throttles.

1:06 -  P calls for Meto Power (Maximum except Take-off), CP pulls prop lever back to climb power. P sets recip throttles to climb MP.

1:24 - CP reduces jets to METO power.

That's about it.  The Pilot flies the plane, looking out the window. The co-pilot is scanning the gauges constantly, looking for proper temperatures and pressures on a host of things.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Conair T-48 (DC-6)

Here is a nice video of Conair tanker 48, a DC-6 from 1990. You will see her being loaded with retardant, taking off and then dropping on the Thunder Fire that burned near La Ronge, Saskatchewan (Canada) in June 1990.

I believe but am not certain that you see a Firecat early in the video as well as a CL-215 a little later.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Duff fires in northern CA: A tanker pilot's story from 1978

My friend, Tom Janney, wrote me a couple of days after I wrote about peat fires two weeks ago. He thought that you'd like this story that his told him, giving me permission to share this with you. Thanks Tom! He said:

Your writing about peat fires reminds me a lot of duff fires, particularly in the Northern California coastal areas. This story was related to me by my Father during his assignment in Northern California during the summer of 1978.  Dad and I only talked about it once...and that was 33 years ago, thus with age and time, I can't claim 100% accuracy

Back in 1978, my Dad was sent to Rohnerville Air Attack Base (about 100 miles South of the Cal/Oregon border, on the coast) for that fire season.  Having never been stationed that far North before, he realized it was a different world when it came to fighting fire.

As the thunderstorms would roll in off the ocean, they'd hammer the Redwood forest from the shore to about 150 miles inland.  I remember my Dad telling me of his first night of storms up there.  They woke him up about Midnight and continued for a good 2 or 3 hours, then subsided and cleared out.  Still in the SoCal mode of thinking, he was at the airport shortly before sunrise, ready to fly.  After about a 3 hour wait, everyone slowly started flowing onto the base.  At first, Dad had a hard time comprehending why there was no immediate action like there was down South.  Welcome to duff fire.

As the coastal moisture and daily rain keeps the top 12 -18 inches of soil wet and damp pretty constantly, everything below that is dry.  When I say everything below, I'm talking in feet - sometimes maybe 30 or 40 feet.  Duff is the accumulation of Pine needles under the trees that pile up over time.  As they eventually start to mulch out, the Pine oil that is resident within the needles themselves leaches out and forms in little pockets that crystallizes.  As the lightning strikes the trees, most of the electrical charge follows the sap down to the roots and discharges there.  I think you see where this is going!

Anyhow, the morning after these thunderstorms, usually an air attack or spotter plane will fly a certain route through the inland forest range, noting the smokes on the ground.  The lumber companies paid for these flights to keep check on their harvest areas.  Unless there was visible flame, nothing was ever the fire was burning deep down in the duff.  Duff fires usually put themselves out over the course of a day or two, so there was not an immediate rush to scramble tankers or ground crews.  Occasionally, a lightning strike would drop a limb or two and ignite the top layer of duff.  One or two tanker drops and it was a done deal.  Fires burn very slow in that area.  I don't think Dad ever got over how slow everyone reacted to reports of fire up there.  A call would come in, notes and location were written down...and the feet would go back up on top of the desk.  Not moving from the office chair, the base Captain would look up at the map on the wall and study it for a few minutes.  "We'll check it out after lunch" was a common ritual.

Dad enjoyed his one season up there.  Clean air, good fishing and wonderful people, but he asked that he never get sent there again.  It was just too slow of a pace for him.  Tactics have changed over time, as well as equipment, however, it's still a slower paced response than most anywhere else.  I think the one thing that bothered him the most, was the Redwood harvesting.  When you drive up US Hwy 1, all you see for miles are these stately Redwoods, towering over everything.  From the air, the forest only exists for about a quarter mile off the highway and is non-existent from there.  Clear-cutting had stripped a lot of forest that was hundreds of years old to nothing but bare land.  A year or two after the cut, they'd come back in and replant certain areas, while letting nature take it's course in others.  With the advent of Google Earth, the scars on the land are evident yet today.  Most of the lumber companies have shut down or relocated to another State, as logging regulations haves changed since 1978.  Eventually, the forest will grow back and duff fires will be someone else's problem - in about 100 years or so.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Northern Maine Wildfire (1992): Helo Ride Along

Ride along with Mr. Harold Jones in a Maine Forest Service UH-1H Helo to a 1992 wildfire in Northern Maine. According to the info on youtube, Mr Jones died in 2007 at the age of 81. He worked for the Maine Forest Fire Service for 30 years, logging over 10,000 hours. The video Is presented by the Minnesota Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association. There are some great shots of the helo cockpit, you will see some footage of bucket work. More importantly and of special interest to me was listening to Mr. Jones talk about his experience doing bucket work with helos to fight wildfires in Maine.

Plan on about 35 minutes to watch the video.

Caughlin Fire (Reno, NV): update 2

According to this report from the Morning Call, the Caughlin Fire in Reno NV was contained yesterday at 1,935 acres. In addition, you will want to see Bill Gabbert's latest report on the fire here. Bill, of Wildfire Today has reported on this fire on Nob 18 and Nov 20. Of interest to me was Bill's reporting that snow aided in the containment of the fire.

The cause of the fire may be due to downed electric wire, see this Washington Post report for more information.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caughlin Fire (Reno NV): update #1

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The video embedded here is taken at the Skyline Canyon near the Caughlin Ranch in Reno NV. Here is a direct link to the ABC 6 video.

The fire burning in Reno NV, known as the Caughlin Fire has burning about 2,000 acres and destroyed about 20 homes. KOLO TV is reporting that a firefighter has been injured bringing the total injured to 17, go here for more information. Sadly, the fire is said to have lead to the death of an elderly gentleman as he was fleeing the fire, see this Chicago Tribune article for more information.

There is an inciweb page for the Caughlin Fire. I believe that air tankers and helos are not working the fire because of the winds.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This just in: wildfire near Reno NV

updated on July 18, 2013: video that I had embedded here on the fire (below) in Reno is no longer available. :-(
A friend of mine just wrote to tell me about this 400 +/- fire near Reno. From what I understand 20 residences have been destroyed, and evacuations are in place.

This goes to show that wildfire season is not over in that part of the country.

Wildland Fire hotlist thread on fire

Las Vagas Sun article on fire


About the NJ Pine Barrens

Two great videos from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. These and other videos by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance may be found on their youtube channel.

I have witnessed the growth of baby pitch pines after fires. It is awesome to see. To read some of my earlier posts about the NJ Pine Barrens, go here, the latest post is at the top.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flying in favorable tail winds

I ran across this video this morning. The Greek pilot who made the video died in a tanker crash. The aircraft that you see in the video are Canadair/Bombardier CL "super scooper" turbines. I do not know if either of the aircraft in the video is the one that crashed.

I'm not quite sure of the names of the pilots who died in the crash. The names were given in Greek on the you tube. I felt uncomfortable relying on the translator, and did not want to get it wrong.

I know that you, crew and tanker are flying in favorable tail winds. I look forward to meeting you one day, and we shall fly together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aerial Wildland Firefighting in South Africa

As some of you know, I did spend some time in Malawi (north of South Africa) over four years ago. I am not sure if spending time at the international airport in Johannesburg South Africa counts as being in South Africa. However, when I came across this video on you tube yesterday, I thought about my time in Africa. I am not sure, but I may have flown over Nelspruit, South Africa on the flight from Johannesburg to Lilongwe Malawi.

I'd like to thank my friend who helped me identify the aircraft that you will see in the video: working the fire in the video are two different types of SEATS, an Air Tractor 802 and a Dromader M18; along with a UH-1 helo. The spotter aircraft is probably a Cessna 206 Centurian.

Updated Dec. 2, 2011. Thanks to my anonymous friend for telling us that there are three SEATs in this video: 1 AT-802 Air Tractor(yellow/blue); 1 Thrush (yellow/black); and 1 M-18 Dromader (round engine, 4 blade prop). I believe that the helo you see is a UH-1 helo.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Phragmites, marshes and brushfires

 I have lived in various locations on the east coast of the USA all my life in various states boarding the Ocean. I have spent a fair amount of time in various fresh and salt water wetland areas and am very familiar with a tall wetland invasive known as a phragmite or common reed. I have also lived near wetlands where phragmites had invaded the wetland where the agencies overseeing the wetland worked to control the invasive. I have also seen my fair share of fires in these marshes. Fortunately, the marsh fires that I saw posed next to no threat to residences but the smoke did interfere with traffic on nearby roads.

So, I was very interested when I came across and article from NY1 on efforts by the National Park Service to use a machine known as a marsh master to cut firelines in a marshy area of Staten Island to make the area safer for residents. I do recall at least one, possibly more brush fires in these Staten island marshes within the last couple of years. Go here to read about these efforts by the NPS in Staten Island.

I will be interested to see how things turn out in this area of Staten Island during the next fire season in the residential neighborhoods of Staten Island adjoining marshes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fires burning underground in peat

The other day I was in the shift briefing section of the hotlist of the wildlandfire today where news articles about wildfire news in the US are posted. I saw an article about a fire burning in the  Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. According to the inciweb page the fire, aka the Silo Fire, has burned about 200 acres. It started out as a prescribed burn on Aug. 23 with all going as planed until on or about Oct. 23 when it escaped prescription after four days of Red Flag conditions.

The fire, however, is not burning above ground. Rather most of the fire is burning underground in peat. What peaked my interest when I read this article in the Grand Forks Herald is the discussion on the difficulty in bringing such underground fires under control. I was especially interested in the discussion of the techniques used by wildland fire crews to battle the fire. These techniques are different than those employed in wildfires burning above ground, and you will want to read the article to learn more. Simply, instead of using air tankers and heavy ground equipment, the fire fighters use light ground vehicles with 300 gallon water tanks. The goal is to "surround and drown" the fires.

I then remembered the Honey Prairie Fire that is still burning in the Okfenokee Swamp in Georgia. This fire recently passed its six month birthday, having started from lightening on April 30, 2011. At the time I write this, it has burned 309,299 acres and is at 76% containment. Anyway, I remembered that some of the fire activity in the Honey Prairie Fire is burning underground in peat. So I went to the  to review the  inciweb page (obtained Nov. 9, 2011). This report says in part:

Incident Commander Steve Abbott says, 'We need a storm to dump at least six to eight inches of rainfall over the entire swamp to bring the water level up and extinguish the fire. The US Drought Monitor indicates that most of Georgia including the Okefenokee Swamp is in an extreme drought. The NOAA Drought Outlook predicts that drought will persist or intensify in the area through January 31, 2012. It does not look like the fire will be out soon.'

I now have a new appreciation of the difficulty in fighting fires burning underground in peat.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Oct 29 snow storm: thanks to utility and forestry crews!!

As a friend of mine said to me recently, power restoration in New Jersey and elsewhere was a massive effort.

Focusing on NJ, I want to pause a moment to say thank-you.

Thanks to all the forestry crews who did the tree work. Some of you work for my town, county, and state. Others of you work with the utilities. And I'm sure that others of you came from out of state to help us out.

Thanks to an unknown number of private utility contractors.

I only know about utility crews from out of state from the JCP&L twitter feed and some references in local media. Thanks to utility crews from:

New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
And anyone else I didn't list here.

Last and by no means least, I want to thank the utility crews from Jersey Central Power and Light (my utility) PSE&G, and Orange and Rockland Utility. I live just a couple of miles from a JCP&L location so I saw for myself the bucket trucks congregating at that location, including JCP&L crews.

To my meter reader, I know that you were there doing whatever it is you do help the guys in the bucket trucks repair the electric lines. I know you are not stringing wires and the like, but I know that you provide whatever assistance that is within your abilities. Thank-you!

To those working customer service, answering telephones, thank-you!

Last week, I had a chance to thank someone from one of the forestry crews for their efforts. Just this morning, as I was taking the photo that you see above, a JCP&L employee came out to his truck. He saw me and wondered what I was doing. I told him about my blog, and about this post thanking all the utility workers who helped restore power. I thanked him. I told him that I was sorry that I was not able to get a photo of someone in a bucket truck doing repair work, but it wasn't possible. I went on to tell him that I did want to get a photo of a bucket truck for the article, the one you see here from JCP&L. I wish that I'd been able to get a photo of a bucket truck from an out-of-state utility, but I passed you on the road last week.

I may not have been able to get a photo of you working, but I'm here to say that I know you were here. Not only have I seen a lot of your bucket bucket trucks, but I have seen the repairs you made.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Oct 29 2011 snowstorm - nine days later

Nine days after the October snowstorm that brought down utility lines leading to power outages from Maryland to Maine, I can say that much progress has been made in my corner of NJ. In my travels around my county, I can say that roads that were closed last Friday due to downed trees and power lines are now open. I drove on one such road today and saw the repairs. New poles in place and it looked to me like the electric lines were in place. I'm no expert, but it looked to me like a couple of poles were downed in the storm of Oct. 29.

Similar repairs, albeit on a much smaller scale, were made a couple of miles down the street from me.

As I understand it, most of the power has been restored in NJ, with scattered outages remaining, see this News12NJ report . Connecticut is not quite as fortune. As I write this 64,000 are still without power, and power may not restored to those folk until this Wednesday (Nov. 9), see this report from WCBS for more info. To read about power restoration in Massachusetts, see this Boston Globe article. I don't know about the electric power situation in other states impacted by last Saturday's early snow storm in the northeast and mid atlantic.

Airtankers at tanker base in Austin TX Oct 3, 2011


About a month ago a friend told me about the great video done by KVUE in Texas. I've been meaning to embed the video to share with all of you for awhile. One thing lead to another and to be honest I forgot about this particular video until I was going through some of my notes just now. So, I want to share this video with you. You will see both tankers, lead planes, and I believe that you may also see a CV-580 and her birddog (from Conair, our friends in Canada). I think, but am not certain, that many of these planes may no longer be in Texas.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Always fire season somewhere

As wildfire season may be winding down in parts of the U.S., I am reminded that it is always fire season somewhere. For example, the summer wildfire season is approaching in Australia. Recent rains may have provided relief from years long drought in Australia. But with the rains, grasses have grown raising fears of grass fires. Two media outlets in Australia, Geelong Advertiser and Sidney Morning Herald report on the possibilities of grass fires.

A wildfire is burning in a UNESCO world heritage site, La Reunion National Park on La Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The fires started on October 25 and have burned on the order of 6,400 acres with some 400 personnel responding. Go here for some information,

And in the U.S., Santa Anna Winds in Southern California continue to be a concern. See this Daily News (Los Angeles) article regarding fire concerns from a Santa Wind event on Nov. 2. Reports of two fires in California on Nov. 2, may be found in the California and Hawaii hotlist forums on here and here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

update on late October snowstorm in the northeast

Utility crews continue to work to restore power to New Jersey. Progress is being made, but it could be at least two more days until the last customer is restored.

As I was driving today I saw evidence of one of the problems plaguing utility and tree crews as they work to restore power: a tree leaning on another tree near some electrical lines. I reported this to the appropriate government agency. Point being that as utility crews restore power another tree could fall on a power line taking out more customers.

So we wait . . .

As do many others in the northeast.

Follow-up on 767 belly landing

Yesterday I wrote here about a LOT airline 767 that made a safe belly landing in Warsaw Poland after a landing gear failure. I found a nice article from the Daily Mail in England reporting on the incident with a nice human touch, the article may be found here. It seems that the pilots knew of the landing gear failure long before landing in Poland so that everyone had time to prepare.

Again, kudos the pilots, the cabin crew, the air traffic controllers, and the responders at the Frederic Chopin International Airport in Warsaw Poland.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Boeing 767 makes safe belly landing in Poland

A LOT airline Boeing 767 that took off from Newark-Liberty International (NJ) last night made a safe belly landing at Frederic Chopin International Airport in Warsaw Poland earlier today. The flight from Newark NJ was routine until a warning light in the cockpit revealed that the landing gear was not down. A fighter jet did a visual check, emergency preparations were made at the airport including putting foam on the runway, and the pilots circled for 80 minutes dumping fuel. According to media reports, all aboard survived.

Kudos to the pilots!

The CBS affiliate in New York has a nice report about the belly landing with a video that I was unable to embed here. To read their article, view some photos and watch the video, go here.